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The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt Hardcover – May 26, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Egyptologist Wilkinson presents a clear, comprehensive and beautifully illustrated (in color and b&w) guide to the bewildering array of Egyptian deities-a complete catalogue of gods and goddesses supplemented by examinations of the history of Egyptian religion, the rise and fall of the gods, and the ways in which they were worshipped. Ancient Egypt was, Wilkinson writes, the most theocratic of any ancient culture; religion pervaded daily life for comoners as well as the pharaohs. This volume underscores the richness of ancient Egyptian beliefs: literally scores of deities are discussed, grouped by appearance: male anthropomorphic, female anthropomorphic, mammalian, avian, etc. For each god or goddess, the author discusses its mythology, iconography and forms of worship. Amun, or Amun-Re, for instance, one of the major male anthropomorphic gods, is discussed as creator god, solar god and fertility god, among other roles; he was originally portrayed with the color red; and he was honored with temples at Karnak and Luxor. This is an excellent reference work for budding Egyptologists and anyone fascinated by the culture of ancient Egypt.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Wilkinson's gorgeously illustrated book adds new dimension to popular literature on ancient Egypt, for it is a handy dictionary of divinities and a comprehensive analysis of the land's theology and religious history. Readers will be drawn in by the copious fine reproductions of classic Egyptian art--some familiar, such as the dual portrait of Nefertiti and Akhnaten, but most not, including the intriguing gold-painted wooden images of the sky-cow Isis-Mehet. Most of the photographs are black-and-white, but of such high quality and detail that they are more than merely serviceable. And once readers open the book to look at the pictures, they well may stay to read the well-organized, comprehensive, clearly written text. In addition to history and theology, Wilkinson offers excellent sociological sections on everyday religion, including discussion of divination and offerings to the gods by ordinary people, and on the relationship of the ruling classes, especially the pharaohs, to the gods. A handsome, valuable general reference. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
I had been looking for a book on Ancient Egyptian religion and deities which was neither outdated in its ideas, nor sterile or boring, nor full of fluff, nor overwhelmed with dense detail, nor assumed detailed prior knowledge of anthropology, archeology or African/Near Eastern history and religion. This book is it. It is beautifully clear and explains how Egyptian views of each deity changed over time. It clearly presents for each deity what syncretism occurred (merging with other gods or the adoption of other gods' attributes) with time. It contains some of the most recent thinking on how the Egyptians might have viewed their own deities. My only minor negative would be that there are no references or footnotes in the text itself for the expert. However, within the body of the text, the author does mention which academics advanced which important concepts and coupled with the extensive and detailed bibliography arranged by subject matter at the end of the book, this minor gripe is assuaged.
The binding and quality of the book, its print, and illustrations are beautiful - it would make a lovely gift for someone.
Easy to read for both the beginner and the non-beginner in this area, but full of crystal clear detail for one who wants a good reference book even for more advanced students of religion.
The book begins with twelve brief essays (4-6 pages each) on Egyptian religion, covering such topics as creation myths, manifestations of divinity, temple and popular worship, and divine kingship. The essays are thoughtful, informative, and up-to-date with current scholarship. I wish they had been longer, because they deserve to be expanded at greater length than the book allocates to them.
The rest of the book, some 180 pages, is devoted to a "Catalogue of Deities," organized by biological shape (anthropomorphic male and female, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and inanimate objects). This is a great idea, but it could have been taken even further. A visual index of shapes would make lookup much easier, and would only take an additional page or two. A name index is, of course, provided. Why not give a hieroglyphic index as well?
Going to the individual entries, Wilkinson generally provides information about the mythology, iconography, and worship of each deity. The deities are generously illustrated, with line drawings and photographs. Again, I would wish that many of these entries could be expanded, both in terms of discussion and in terms of visual iconography. This is not a criticism of Wilkinson; it just reflects the practical limitations of the book.
To summarize, Wilkinson's "Gods and Goddesses" is a very well-written, thoughtful, accurate, beautifully produced and illustrated reference on the religion of ancient Egypt. In terms of coverage it is somewhere between a handbook and an encyclopedia. I am very glad to have it in its present form, and I only wish that it had been much longer, since it is clear that Wilkinson has more to say about this subject than could fit into the covers of the present book. I would gladly pay double the price to have a truly complete encyclopedia of Egypt's gods from this author.